Pope Francis Slams 'Trickle Down' Economics and Greed at the Top

(Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

He's surprised the world with his comments on homosexuality, abortion and birth control, and now Pope Francis has taken on another hot-button political issue: "trickle down" economics.

In his first apostolic exhortation, the Pope took issue with so-called "trickle down" economic theories, which in the U.S. are closely associated with President Ronald Reagan's economic policies.

Francis said trickle down policies have not been proven to work and they reflect a "naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power."

"In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world," Pope Francis wrote.

"This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system," the 76-year-old pontiff added.

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His writings directly address a hot political debate still raging in the U.S. about whether or not governments should cut taxes for businesses and the wealthy so that the economic benefits will "trickle down" the economic ladder to the poor and middle class.

And Francis didn't stop there.

In the communication with the church, which is not quite Church doctrine, but still an exhortation that carries weight, Pope Francis also denounces tax evasion and economic inequality, and he exhorts governments to ponder a saying that "not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood."

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican, has suggested that Francis' recent comments on homosexuality, abortion and birth control have been inaccurately reported (or perhaps translated) by the media.

"He's had some statements that to me sound kind of liberal, has taken me aback, has kind of surprised me," Palin told CNN in a recent interview. But "unless I really dig deep into what his messaging is, and do my own homework, I'm not going to just trust what I hear in the media."

Palin later apologized on her Facebook page, saying that she didn't intend to criticize the pope, she only meant to encourage viewers to do their homework.

"I was reminding viewers that we need to do our own homework on news subjects, and I hadn't done mine yet on the Pope's recent comments as reported by the media," Palin wrote.

But the provenance of Francis' latest comments on economic issues was ironclad. In this case, the pope's writings were translated by the Vatican itself.

Here are six more things the Pope had to say about economic issues:

1) This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

2) While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.

3) Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

4) With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: "Not to share one's wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs."

5) The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.

6) Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.